Anger! – Matthew 5:21-26
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 10, 2019
Angry words can never be taken back. Society’s standard of foul and angry words has declined in recent years, but we don’t have to decline with it, we should think about how to honor God with our speech. We please the Lord with our tongue when we show discernment. Proverbs 10:19 reminds us that “He who restrains his lips is wise”. When we do speak, we are to filter the words that escape our lips: “Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles” (Proverbs 21:23 NIV). Paul’s warns us to “let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth” (Ephesians 4:29 NIV).
How can we keep our anger contained? How do we remain calm in a world that seems to be filled with hatred, evil, and ungodly behavior? Jesus in the Beatitudes sets an almost impossible situation where we are to speak right and think right all the time. Jesus did this to startle his listeners and to shock them into listening to what he was teaching about himself. And here he gives us some practical advice on what to do when we get angry with one another. Let’s discover what Jesus teaches…
READ: Matthew 5:21-26
A young lady remarked, “As I was reading the text message on my phone, my temperature started to rise and my blood began to boil. I was on the verge of shooting back a nasty answer when an inner voice told me to cool down and reply tomorrow. The next morning after a good night’s sleep, the issue that had upset me so greatly seemed so trivial.” In dealing with anger Jesus teaches us…
I. We can murder others with our angry words! (Vv. 21-22)
You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, “Raca,” is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell.
1. Jesus reminds the crowd and his disciples of the commandments of God. He relates, “You have heard it said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’” “You shall not murder. (Exodus 20:13 NIV)” Jesus was also commenting on some of the prevailing opinions among the Jewish leadership of his day to show that the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was defective. Remember he had just related that if their righteousness did not exceed that of the Pharisees they would not see the kingdom of heaven. The people needed a better righteousness or they could not be saved. Jesus illustrates what he meant by that better righteous-ness by showing that the common opinions of the scribes were incorrect. This is why he immediately remarks, “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” Jesus is equating a person’s irrational anger to that being the same as murder! The Pharisees thought it perfectly okay and even righteous to be angered at the Romans or anyone who did not agree with them; this is how they could later justify murdering Jesus and using the Romans to do their dirty work! Jesus understood that irrational anger could lead a person to totally dismiss those one disliked and thereby “murder” them. He continues by reminding them that “Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin.” God views all human life as sacred and to dismiss someone by calling them a “fool” was the height of arrogance and yet the Pharisees did it all the time. “But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” To God it demonstrates one’s intent and the sinfulness of their heart and was in danger of being condemned to hell, “Gehenna” meaning valley of Hinnom, the valley south of Jerusalem where fires consumed the city’s garbage. This became an apt name for the eternal punishment of the wicked. Jesus is reminding us that we can murder others with our angry words!
EXAMPLE: On the playground is not uncommon for children to get into arguments. We may think it is childish and just part of growing up but words can be hurtful and especially name calling. When adults carelessly use ungodly references or names for others it is just as childish and ungodly. Regretfully, I must confess that I am often tempted to respond in anger more than I would like to admit. I constantly find myself having to put into practice familiar Bible truths, such as “Be angry, and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26 NIV). Thankfully, God has given us his Spirit who will assist us in our battle with our sin. Peter and Paul called it the “sanctifying work of the Spirit” (2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2 NIV). We need to remember that we can murder others with our angry words!
Jesus could have just given his listeners an admonishment for their bad behavior and then let it go but he then gives them how they can resolve the issue of angry words used in haste. Jesus continued by teaching that…
II. We can be reconciled for our angry words! (Vv. 23-24)
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
1. Jesus is not giving us a set of rules we have to put into effect in order to be forgiven by God. Sadly there are those who actually think that this is exactly what Jesus was doing but he is not. What Jesus begins to do is to teach us through example how we are to come before God when we do sin and how we are to treat one another when we act horrendously. The Pharisees were intent only on the external act in worship. They looked not at all to the internal state of the individual. If a man conformed to the external rites of religion, however much envy, and malice, and secret hatred he might have, they thought he was doing well. Jesus taught a different doctrine. It was of more consequence to have the heart right than to perform the outward act. How many of us have been dismissive of our parents, our children, siblings, neighbors, or fellow believers? How could anyone say they love God and yet harbor in their heart ill feelings toward another? We could never go to worship! Jesus puts it in a way everyone could fully understand. He related “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar.” I must insert here that Jesus will later tell us what the two greatest commandments of God are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (and to)… Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39 NIV)”! Here he is sharing how they could do this when they realize that they have offended another by their hateful words. If they realized it they were stop what they were doing, even if was going to worship God, and “First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” This would have been shocking behavior to the Pharisees who thought their worship was far more important than anything including people’s view of them! What Jesus is describing here is not the actual act we are to do but rather how we are to respond when we realize we have offended someone else with angry words. And in his example Jesus is teaching us that we can be reconciled for our angry words!
EXAMPLE: “Now go and tell your brother that you are sorry” my father admonished me. My retort was, “What if he doesn’t care?” My dad reminded me that I had been given only one brother and that I would always be his brother no matter what. It did not matter how he responded but rather how I acted. And here in Matthew’s gospel we discover a wonderful picture of how we can readily approach God anytime we have sinned! It does not matter where we are we can come before him and be forgiven! Also if we say we love God but do not care about those we have offended then what does that truly say about our love of God? This is where the Pharisees failed but Jesus pointed to a new covenant of reconciliation between us and God and one another! We can be reconciled for our angry words!
Words mean things. If they didn’t then we would not use them to express ourselves. This is why Jesus knew that words said in anger can truly be hurtful and can literally “murder” another’s character. As believers we need to be careful of our words and anger. Jesus teaches us that…
III. Unreconciled anger will lead to judgment! (Vv. 25-26)
Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
1. The consequence of not being reconciled Jesus expresses in the language of courts. The adversary (the one you offended or perhaps God himself who becomes our adversary when we do not confess our sin) shall deliver us to the judge, and then to the executioner and he shall throw us into prison! If we are unwilling to be at peace with others how will God deal with us? God’s dealings with those that harbored these feelings towards those who would not be reconciled with their fellow believers results in the example of punishment inflicted by human courts! That is, he would hold us as violating the sixth commandment and would punish us accordingly. Murdering someone can occur when we willingly know we have sinned and refuse to confess our sin or be forgiven by others! We should therefore “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court.” It is like when I would call my brother a stinky name and I knew as soon as I did I had better say I was “sorry” and mean it or suffer the consequences! Jesus related if we did not immediately do what we know we are supposed to do in such a situation we could suffer the consequences: “Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison.” Jesus is not suggesting that the believer will never be forgiven and thereby end up in hell for an eternity, because we know this to be patently false. What Jesus is teaching is the seriousness of our angry words and our ungodly actions! His disciples, his followers, were to act differently than even the pious Pharisees! God wanted us to be holy because he is holy and he knew this was totally impossible because we are ungodly in our attitudes and actions! It is only through the shed blood of Jesus we are made holy and can be seen as righteous! We could surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees in Jesus! Our ungodly anger will lead us to an eternity in prison: “I tell you the truth you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.” We can never pay the debt we own without Jesus’ sacrifice! Unless we take care of it through our faith in Jesus our unreconciled anger will lead to judgment!
EXAMPLE: David McCasland writes: “A friend told me about the time he was watching football on TV as his young daughter played nearby. Angered by his team’s bad play, he grabbed the closest thing and threw it down. His little girl’s favorite toy was shattered, along with her heart. My friend immediately embraced his daughter and apologized. He replaced the toy and thought all was well. But he didn’t know how much his fury had frightened his 4-year-old, and she didn’t know the depth of her pain. In time, however, forgiveness came. Years later he sent an identical toy to his daughter when she was expecting a baby. She posted a photo of the toy on Facebook with the words, ‘This gift has a very long story going back to my childhood. It wasn’t a happy story then, but it has a happy ending now! Redemption is a beautiful thing. Thanks, Grandpa!’” When we are the victim of anger, God asks us to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (v.32). Unreconciled anger will lead to judgment!
Restored relationships are not easy, but they are possible by the grace of God.
We can murder others with our angry words! We can be reconciled for our angry words! Unreconciled anger will lead to judgment!
This article is copyrighted © 2019 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.
Tag Archives: repent
Anger! – Matthew 5:21-26
Renewed by the Word! — 2 Kings 22:8, 11-13a; 23:1-6
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 25, 2018
The English preacher G. Campbell Morgan was known as the “prince of expositors” in his day. When he was a young man, he went through a period of doubting the truthfulness of God’s Word. To find some answers for himself, he locked away all of his books and bought a new Bible. He committed himself to studying it until he knew if it was God’s Word or not. The result was clear. He said, “That Bible found me.” Morgan devoted the rest of his life to studying and preaching God’s Word.
Hilkiah found the book of the law while making repairs to the temple. When the book was read to King Josiah, it “found him” and became the blueprint for his reign. His grandfather Manasseh worshipped Baal, Asherah, practiced the worship of stars, participated in sorcery, consulted mediums and spiritists, and sacrificed one of his own sons in the fire! Though he turned to the Lord at the end of his reign, Scripture blamed him for Jerusalem’s and Judah’s destruction. His successor Amon followed in his father’s evil footsteps. After a short reign, Amon’s officials assassinated him (2 Kings 21:1-26)! Amon’s son Josiah became king afterwards. Josiah was renewed by the Word! Let’s discover how…
Amon’s son Josiah became king after Amon’s death. Josiah walked in the ways of his forefather David, instituting some far-reaching religious reforms in Judah. He based his reforms on the book of the law that Hilkiah the high priest found in the temple. We discover that…
I. Renewal comes when we evaluate God’s Word for ourselves! (2 Kings 22:8, 10-13a NIV)
Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the LORD.” He gave it to Shaphan, who read it… When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes. He gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Acbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant: “Go and inquire of the LORD for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found.”
1. The renovation of Solomon’s temple was taking place after many years of neglect and pagan worship being set up inside it walls. Remember that Hezekiah’s chief influence seems to have been the prophet Isaiah but his grandson Josiah’s chief influence was the law book discovered in the temple. Second Chronicles 34:3 records that in the eighth year of his reign (at age 16), he began to seek the Lord. That search led Josiah in the 12th year as king (at age 20) to begin purging Jerusalem and Judah of all practices and places that had to do with the worship of Baal. In the 18th year of Josiah’s reign (at age 26), Hilkiah the high priest found the book of the law while repairing the temple. The book of the law was Scripture, most likely part of Deuteronomy or possibly the entire Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament. “Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, ‘I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the LORD.’ He gave it to Shaphan, who read it.” It is amazing that the Word of God can have such an impact but it does! Shaphan cannot keep the words to his self and he reads them to his king. “When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes.” It was an act of contrition and repentance. The Words of God have that effect. Some believe it might have been the temple copy mentioned in Deuteronomy 31:25-26. The word translated book refers to a written document that was in the form of a scroll, and it probably was written in columns. The king then “gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Acbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant: ‘Go and inquire of the LORD for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found.’” The king is jubilant because renewal comes when we evaluate God’s Word for ourselves!
EXAMPLE: When we are confronted with God’s Word in our lives we have to decide whether we will follow it or not. A halfway commitment is like a lukewarm cup of coffee—worth only to spit out! Jesus spoke to the church of Laodicea in Revelation concerning this: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:15-16 NIV)” He rebukes them: “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:19-20 NIV)” Renewal comes when we evaluate God’s Word for ourselves!
To be renewed by Scripture, God’s people must encounter the Bible by reading and hearing it taught and preached. Through this God’s people can learn what the Lord thinks about their actions and lifestyles. Scripture warns them of the tragic consequences of sinful actions and the positive consequences of obedience to God’s Word. We discover that…
II. God’s Word brings us to make a commitment! (2 Kings 23:1-3 NIV)
Then the king called together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. He went up to the temple of the LORD with the men of Judah, the people of Jerusalem, the priests and the prophets–all the people from the least to the greatest. He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the LORD. The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the LORD–to follow the LORD and keep his commands, regulations and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant.
1. Josiah commanded Hilkiah and some of his officials to form a commission and investigate further into Judah’s guilt and what ought to be done. “Then the king called together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem.” They were to seek answers from God, not from some idol or through divination. God’s Word had disturbed Josiah and caused him to encounter God in a way that made him reevaluate his actions and lifestyles as well as those of his people. This is why as king, “He went up to the temple of the LORD with the men of Judah, the people of Jerusalem, the priests and the prophets–all the people from the least to the greatest.” All of Judah was called to a public assembly. The circle widened from the king to extend throughout his kingdom. “He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the LORD.” When everyone was assembled, Josiah read from the book of the covenant that Hilkiah had found in the temple. The public reading of Scripture was a vital part of the spiritual renewal. The people heard what God required and prohibited, and Josiah had those commands implemented. “The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the LORD–to follow the LORD and keep his commands, regulations and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book.” Josiah stood by the pillar before his people and made a covenant in the presence of the Lord and the people. The pillar was probably one of the two bronze 35-foot tall bronze pillars that stood on either side of the temple’s entrance and were named Jachin, meaning “he shall establish,” and Boaz, meaning “in the strength of.” The King in his wisdom knew he had to lead the way and he was more than willing to do so. And after the people saw he was willing to be true to the Word of God, “Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant” as well! We discover that God’s Word brings us to make a commitment!
EXAMPLE: In the past many Baptist churches had a “Church Covenant” that listed responsibilities a person assumed on becoming a church member. Some churches would display a large copy of that covenant on the front wall of the sanctuary facing the congregation. It reminded the people of their decision to follow the Lord and what it meant to be a member. The covenant was often the basis of church discipline against one who was accused of not carrying out these responsibilities. We discover that God’s Word brings us to make a commitment!
Encountering God’s Word led Josiah and his people to recommit themselves to the Lord and to the purposes of his kingdom. A fresh encounter by God’s people today with his Word will lead them to recommit themselves as well. Sometimes we can be reminded by the Word that we have things that hinder our relationship with the Lord. We discover here that…
III. Encountering the Word of God causes us to remove anything that interferes! (2 Kings 23:4-6 NIV)
The king ordered Hilkiah the high priest, the priests next in rank and the doorkeepers to remove from the temple of the LORD all the articles made for Baal and Asherah and all the starry hosts. He burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron Valley and took the ashes to Bethel. He did away with the pagan priests appointed by the kings of Judah to burn incense on the high places of the towns of Judah and on those around Jerusalem–those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and moon, to the constellations and to all the starry hosts. He took the Asherah pole from the temple of the LORD to the Kidron Valley outside Jerusalem and burned it there. He ground it to powder and scattered the dust over the graves of the common people.
1. The Word of God has a tendency to bring about change and often the very first thing that has to occur for that change to take place is for the recipient to get rid of anything in their life that hinders the work of God. This is why “The king ordered Hilkiah the high priest, the priests next in rank and the doorkeepers to remove from the temple of the LORD all the articles made for Baal and Asherah and all the starry hosts.” We discover that the change began with the Temple itself. All of the article that referred to pagan worship were to be removed, but Hilkiah goes a step further, “He burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron Valley and took the ashes to Bethel.” The fields of the Kidron probably referred to the place where dead bodies were cast as well as ashes of various kinds (Jeremiah 33:5). Sweepings of the temple and refuse of the city also were carried there. The place known as Tophet in the Valley of Hinnom was nearby. The whole area was considered to be defiled. Josiah took the objects of idolatrous worship that had defiled the temple to where they belonged—in the place of defilement, where he burned them. In Jesus’ day it was known as Gehenna. Then the king carried their ashes to Bethel where Jeroboam I had first officially sanctioned idolatry in Israel. Taking the ashes to Bethel was a way to desecrate one of the sites of idol worship. After removing the various objects associated with idolatry, the king did away with the idolatrous priests the former kings of Judah had appointed to lead in idol worship, “those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and moon, to the constellations and to all the starry hosts. He took the Asherah Pole from the temple of the LORD to the Kidron Valley outside Jerusalem and burned it there.” Josiah removed the pole once again and threw out its ashes where it belonged—with the dead. But he went further and “He ground it to powder and scattered the dust over the graves of the common people.” Grinding the ashes to a powder was a symbol of absolute destruction. Scattering the ashes over the graves of the common or regular people was an act of desecration of the idol and also of all the people who were guilty of idol worship. Encountering God anew in his Word led Josiah to remove everything that competed with giving first and absolute loyalty to the Lord.
EXAMPLE: If you want to restore a piece of furniture to its old glory you have to be willing to put in a lot of “elbow grease”, meaning time and effort. Stripping, sanding, and gluing joints. Then comes the process of refinishing with several coats of finish, in between sanding, and polishing. In order to restore something back to its original condition it takes removing anything that interferes with the finial finish! Encountering the Word of God causes us to remove anything that interferes!
Renewal comes when we evaluate God’s Word for ourselves! God’s Word brings us to make a commitment! Encountering the Word of God causes us to remove anything that interferes!
This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.
Discover, Decide, and Defend! – 1 Peter 3:15-16
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 20, 2014
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3:15 NIV)
Loyalty, we all like it when companies, family, or friends are loyal to us but are we loyal in return? And what does it mean for you to be loyal? You have to believe in the person, place, or thing you decide to be loyal to. God desires our loyalty. This is why Peter reminds us, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.” We are to hallow; honor as holy, enshrining God in our hearts as Jesus reminds us in the Lord’s Prayer where he reminds us to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9 NIV). God’s holiness is thus glorified in our hearts, our entire lives, as the dwelling-place of his Spirit. This is where our loyalty is to begin and end. The very first commandment God gave the Israelites was, “You shall have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:3 NIV).” Jesus told Satan we are to “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only (Matthew 4:10 NIV).” And, this is why he reminded the teachers of the law that we are to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (Mark 12:30 NIV).” One of the very last verses in the Bible tells us, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me (Revelation 3:20 NIV).” We have to decide to make Jesus the Lord of our lives. We have to decide if we will follow Jesus or not. We have to decide if we will hear his voice and give our lives to him. Paul said, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved (Romans 10:9-10 NIV).” We have to decide with our whole heart exactly who we will be loyal to in life!
I believe we are to decide to follow him after we have discovered who Jesus is. We are to “set apart Christ as Lord”. It is a conscious decision that we are to make for ourselves. No one else can make it for us, nor can we make the decision for someone else. Setting apart Christ in our lives means we make a decision to follow him alone. Anything else would be adultery! James would say we are to, “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded (James 4:8 NIV)!” We are to repent of our lives without him. We are to repent, turn away from and ask forgiveness of our sinful condition. In fact this is a serious matter for the individual. There are those who have deluded themselves into thinking they serve God and love the Lord, but in reality their hearts are divided and they are not totally his! However, it is more than an emotional feeling; it is an act of will. We determine that we will set our hearts, our lives, all that we are to live for the Lord. We have forgotten that God only accepts a perfect sacrifice without spot or blemish. Jesus is that sacrifice for us. We become perfect, holy, when we give ourselves to him alone. When we act out of our emotions we can fool ourselves into thinking that as long as we feel good about ourselves, we are okay. Jesus warned, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers’ (Matthew 7:21-23 NIV)!” In fact, Jesus concludes, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock (Matthew 7:24 NIV).” We are to deliberately turn our lives completely over to the Lord’s will. Just as Peter warned the crowd at Pentecost, we are to “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord (Acts 3:19 NIV).” Refreshing comes as we walk in Him alone and change direction away from the things of the world. We are to “set apart Christ as Lord!”
Our lives in Christ do not end there however, we are to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” Far too many of us have never shared our faith with another individual. Yet, we are told over and over again to be able to witness and if fact we are commanded to go into the entire world. We are to help others discover the truth. We have fallen for the modern-day mantra of lifestyle evangelism. And while there is benefit in befriending others in order to gain an arena whereby we can eventually share our faith in Christ, far too many of us use it as an excuse to never actually mention Jesus to anyone. Cookies for Christ never won a soul unless you use them to comment on him. We are far more fearful of what others may think of us if we share our faith than we are horrified about their final outcome without Christ. When Peter remarked that we are always to be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks, he did not mean we are to wait until they come up to us and say, “Hey, I’ve noticed you are different today? Why?” Because the only way they will ever ask is if they actually see a change in our life and see us living for Jesus! What Peter meant is we are to be prepared, like Paul told his friend Timothy, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.” The wording here does not mean like “preach it brother” on a soapbox or from a pulpit, but rather it means to speak out, tell others. Believers are to speak out; we are to tell others about the Lord Jesus Christ! Why? Peter goes on to say, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (2 Timothy 4:2-4 NIV)” Now, let me ask you, “Don’t you think this is true in our world today?” So, what is the answer? We should be able to give anyone, at anytime, the answer for eternity – Jesus Christ! Yet, we are to do it “with gentleness and respect”. The wording here is interesting because in actuality it means “with meekness and fear”! We are to be humbled by the very prospect of sharing such a tremendous truth that we are to do it trembling because it is a sacred certainty that can change a person’s life forever! Plus, it was bought with such a bloody price. We are to sow the seed of the gospel and allow the Holy Spirit to germinate it in the life of those we share it with. We are to help others discover the truth.
Wherever we go and whoever we meet we are to be ready with the gospel. We are to be ready to defend what we believe, “keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” We are not to be deliberately abrasive, but we are to be willing to stand up for Christ. Far too many of us worry and wonder what in the world will I say, what if I offend someone, what if I lead someone astray by not being able to tell them exactly what they need to hear? This is all so much hogwash. Have you forgotten the promise of Jesus in this matter? He told his disciples and the curious crowds, “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say. (Luke 12:11-12 NIV)” We are not to be gospel scholars or Biblical professors, we are to be ourselves. Some of the best witnessing is when we simply share what Jesus has done for us, and it is most effective when we babble on about it! Why? Because it is sincere! It is us being us and sharing how God has worked in us! If someone wants to have a theological ontological pre-millennial post tribulational argument with you, respond by telling them, “What!?” And then share what you do know from your own life and if they do not want to hear it, be respectful and talk about something else! If the God who knows the very number of hairs on your head, your coming and going, and everything else there is to know about you, don’t you think he can give you what you need to say about your walk with the Lord when you need it? (I do.) He promised to do so!
She was this petite, quite, little 8th grade girl who always sat in the back row when we did youth camp. However, one day she came to me and asked, with a whole lot of fear and trembling I might add, to be able to share a testimony during our share time at Camp. You see, we always asked the youth that if they felt God prompting them to share something during share time they could. (Most of the time it was punctuated by a lot of cricket chirping, scuffling of feet, and utter quite.) So, that night as we all sat around enjoying the worship music, the skits, and the devotions, the time came for me to stand up and again ask if there was anyone who wanted to share. She quietly stood up and began to share what God was doing in her life. This beautiful quiet girl was a foster child. She came to camp because her foster mother thought it would be a good idea. She hated church, she hated Christians, and she did not particularly like the outdoors and sleeping in a cabin with fifteen strange girls who snored. The very first day she had sat alone on her bunk and had determined to run away. She was overcome by her circumstance in life. She shared that a slight breeze blew through the open door and flipped the pages of a Bible lying on an adjacent bunk. Curious, she went over to read where it had opened and she read these words: “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Revelation 3:19-22 NIV)” She sat down on the floor of the cabin and gave her life to Christ. Tearfully she asked the now quiet crowd of youth “Is there anyone else here who needs to do what I did? I just felt I needed to share this and ask.” Over a dozen came forward that night. To my surprise most came from foster homes and were sent to the camp by their foster parents in order to give them the experience. She did not argue theology, eschatology, or the social implications of faith; she just shared what she knew.
When was the last time you decided to follow Jesus, discovered who he is, and defended his gospel so others would come to know him?
This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 8, 2014
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8 NIV)
I have always found it rather amusing when Christians cry, “What does God want me to do?” Micah addresses Israel with the words of God, reminding them exactly what they are to do, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” This advice carries over to believers today. Over and over God has shown His people what they were to do as His people. Over and over God showed them how they were to live before Him. We know several eternal truths that never change: God’s ways are not our ways, He does things differently than we do and in His timing rather than in the hurried-up mode of sinful evil mankind; that we reap what we plant in life and therefore we will, or future generations will, suffer the consequences of our ungodliness; and we are to love God completely and others as our selves. Here, God through Micah reminds His people what is required of them by Him as their Creator, Father, and God. Those who say they follow God are to ” act justly” no matter if the rest of the world acts unfairly; we are to “love mercy” even when the rest of the world desires revenge; and we are to “walk humbly before our God”, even when the rest of the world is drenched in self-indulgence and self-gratification! Walking humbly before God means we live for Him first and foremost in our lives and we willingly place ourselves last. Jesus taught, ” If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35 NIV) Christians are to place God and others before themselves. This is “walking humbly” as opposed to “walking in pride”. Perhaps we need to be reminded of the words of Paul who said, “For in Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) When we ask, “What does God want me to do?” In truth, we know the answer just as the Israelites did. We know if we are walking in our own self-indulgent sin or not, we know if we place ourselves first rather than the Lord, and we know that we are living for the moment rather than eternity. Paul would also say, “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.” (Acts 17:30 NIV) Walking in humility before God begins in personal repentance. Micah succinctly teaches us what is required of us! Now, are you willing to do what is required or are you going to stay your own prideful course and continue to suffer the consequences of your actions? Makes one wonder…
Worship No Other! – Isaiah 44:16-22; 46:1-5, 8-9
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 16, 2014 AM
George leaned over to his wife and grumbled, “Will this sermon ever be over? We’ll never make it home in time to see the game!” Jena sat at her desk watching the clock. “Of all days to work late,” she thought to herself. “I usually spend time in prayer before working out, and I’m stuck here. I really need to go by the fitness center because I have not worked out all week. Looks like I’ll skip prayer tonight.” “I’m going go on vacation,” thought Matt. “I deserve a break. I won’t be able to give my tithe to church, but I think the church will survive without it.” Our worship of God is often reflected in how we invest our lives. Perhaps our worship is not where it needs to be and we are suffering the consequences of our lack of worship.
The trials the Israelites were going through, was due to their inconsistent worship. However, God promised to restore His people. Only He possessed the power and ability to do so. Depending on idols created by human hands would lead to disappointment and ultimate destruction. King Cyrus of Persia would be part of His plan to return the exiles from Judah to their homeland. The Babylonian gods (idols) would not be able to protect their people nor to prevent God from carrying out His will, since the false gods did not exist. God would use Babylonia to punish His people for their disobedient worship. How does this affect us in our day and age? Let’s discover how…
There is a…
I. Worship That Blinds! (Isaiah 44:16-20)
1. Here as he often did, Isaiah used the past tense of future events, so certain was he of their fulfillment. He lived almost 200 years before the events he described would happen. After Cyrus of Persia conquered Babylonia, he issued a decree that allowed Jews to return to Judah. Isaiah describes the Babylonians’ idolatry; the exiles’ involvement in worshipping false gods; the Babylonian gods’ failure to defend their nation; and God’s uniqueness, dependability, and grace. Isaiah had begun his discussion of the powerlessness of idols by describing how metalworkers created idols (v. 44:12). He then focused on the actions of woodworkers who carved idols. They first cut down a tree for a block of wood for carving. Then, with half the log, the worker built a fire to cook his meal and warm himself from the evening’s chill! After having acted in a rational manner in making a fire, the worker then acted irrationally by carving an idol from the second half, bowing down to it in worship, and asking it for deliverance! Such actions made no sense. How could one section of a log produce a sacred image used in worship while the other produced mere firewood? In clear terms, Isaiah indicated the foolishness of idol worship. Idols were mere creations crafted from everyday materials according to the imaginations of a human worker. Only those totally unable to think rationally would not realize the obvious silliness of worshiping an idol carved from half a log when the other half was firewood! Having abandoned God and the desire to understand His will, God allowed them to close their minds to all truth. God allows people to pursue their misguided paths, straying farther and farther from Him. Like a grief-stricken parent, He called to His unresponsive child, Israel. They saw their actions as normal and saw no harm or consequences in what they did. However, they would face the consequences. Through their idolatry, the people created something detestable, disgraceful, and unworthy of God. The worship of idols was an insult to God and indicates people’s spiritual blindness, “He feeds on ashes, a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say, ‘Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?’” All they had left was ashes. Idolaters pray to an idol; but they may as well pray to a chair, stool, or a heap of ashes! It was worship that blinds!
EXAMPLE: Prophesying to the exiles in Babylon, Isaiah saw they would be so caught up in idolatry, that they would not comprehend their sin or free themselves. Rather than accept God’s greatness, they would bow to idols made in their image and seek to control God for their purposes. What are some of the idols that have blinded your worship? The more we worship false gods in our lives, the more hardened our hearts become to the voice of God and the more closed our minds become to God’s reality and truth. Worshiping false gods blinds us to God and the blessings of life in Him.
There is also a…
II. Worship That Blesses! (Isaiah 44:21-22)
1. Judah’s idolatry would separate the people from God and continue to lead them farther away from Him, but He would refuse to stop loving them. God would encourage His people to remember what He had done for them. God had called a man named Abraham to become the father of a great people. God had led His people out of slavery in Egypt through Moses and into Canaan under Joshua. He had provided David as their king. He also had provided guidelines and prophets to help people maintain their focus on Him. God’s actions throughout history reveal His character. He loves His people even when they do not return His love. He shows grace to His people when they deserved none. He would never forget or abandon His people. “I will not forget you.” He reminds us. God had called Judah not just to receive His blessings but also to serve Him. As a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, God’s people were to witness to His grace, forgiveness, and love. Unfortunately, their idolatry resulted in their being punished, defeated, and exiled. The Jewish exiles in Babylonia probably believed returning to the land of Judah constituted their greatest need. In reality, like today with many believers, sin comprised their greatest problem and forgiveness was and is their greatest need. To return to Judah without having turned from their sin and to God left them in the same state that led to the exile. God reminds them and us, “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.” This is true for us as well! God assured His people He would stand ready to give them a fresh start. He would forgive their sin and redeem them. They needed only to repent in order to experience worship that blesses!
EXAMPLE: Living here where ocean moisture often meets the dry air of eastern Washington and Oregon, we often drive to work through thick, early morning fog; but by mid-morning the fog has completely dissipated and the sun brightly shines. As the sun dissolves the morning fog and the wind drives away the clouds, so God removes sin. No matter how terrible our sin, God can forgive it. No matter how long we have closed ourselves to God, He can break through with His love and life. No matter how insignificant we may think our service to be, God can use us to bless those around us and help transform their lives. We need to repent in order to experience worship that blesses!
However, we must remember to never be a part of a…
III. Worship That Burdens! (Isaiah 46:1-2)
1. We often allow things in our lives to become idols that weigh us down with the pressures of life; such as relationships, family, jobs, school, Facebook, texting, or other pursuits. The Babylonians worshiped Bel, also known as Marduk, as their chief god and Nebo, Bel’s son. Bel served as god of the city of Babylon and Nebo as god of the city of Borsippa, about 10 miles south. Nebo took on great significance as the number of important Babylonian kings’ named after him, for example, Nebuchadnezzar and Nabonidus. Each year during the Babylonian New Year’s Festival, worshipers carried the images of Bel, Nebo, and other gods on their shoulders or on animals in a procession into the city. This is why Isaiah mentions, “Bel bows down, Nebo stoops low; their idols are borne by beasts of burden. The images that are carried about are burdensome, a burden for the weary.” They supposedly revealed what would happen to the nation in the next year. However, the Babylonians’ worship of Bel and Nebo proved useless. The Persians conquered Babylon; and after loading their carts and donkeys; they carried away these images that previously had been paraded through the city with reverence. The gods could not save their own images, much less save the empire. The Babylonians had believed their gods wielded great power; but these idols could not ease their burdens nor rescue them! Instead, the idols were loaded onto the backs of and carried away by beasts of burden. “They stoop and bow down together; unable to rescue the burden, they themselves go off into captivity.” Isaiah’s words were to serve as a warning to the Jewish exiles in Babylonia. The idols they had begun to worship in Babylon had no power because they did not exist. Babylon’s trust in their gods proved fruitless. The exiles needed to recognize that worshiping and depending on false gods did not provide salvation but only the burden of false hopes. Trusting in false gods can only lead to disappointment. When difficult times come, false gods can neither sustain us nor provide hope. They burden us with the demands of their worship!
EXAMPLE: One day I found my grandson straining to lift a pair of ten-pound weights over his head—an ambitious feat for a three-year-old. He had raised them only a few inches off the ground, but his eyes were determined and his face was pink with effort. I offered to help, and together we heaved the weight up toward the ceiling. The heavy lifting that was so hard for him was easy for me. Are you worn out from ongoing problems? Are you weighed down with stress and worry? Are your choices in life bringing unnecessary burdens? Jesus is the only real solution. Approaching the Lord in prayer allows us to cast our burdens on Him so that He can sustain us. What sin is burdening your heart today? The false idols of life burden us with the demands of their worship, God never does.
We, however, enjoy a…
IV. Worship That Bears Up! (Isaiah 46:3-5, 8-9)
1. Sometimes, it can be tough to get those you love to listen to your concerns for their lives. God tells them, “Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all you who remain of the house of Israel, you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth.” As Isaiah prophesied, the great Babylonian Empire that believed it was invincible fell to Persia. The Babylonian idols and those who worshiped them were carried off by the Persians as spoils of war. It underscored the foolishness of trusting in false gods and the necessity of trusting in the one true God. The remnant of Israel that witnessed Babylonia’s fall later saw God restore them to return home. God had been with Israel from the beginning, caring for His people when they were few in number and helping them grow into a great nation. The Babylonian gods had not and could not carry their people, which testified to their non-existence. Only God had carried and saved His people, and only God would continue to do so. God loved His people as a good parent loves a child. God invited Israel to compare Him to other gods. Had any other god nurtured or shown compassion to Israel? Had any other god demonstrated the power to save and been committed to Israel? The answer was no. No other god compared to God either in commitment to Israel or in power to accomplish His will. What about how God has dealt in your life? God tells them to, “Remember this, fix it in mind, take it to heart, you rebels. Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.” They needed to remember God had created, had led, and was committed to His people. Remember refers not just to recalling an event or fact but also to acting on that basis. God called His people to remember two things. First, He urged them to remember His nurturing, guiding activity in their history. Second, He encouraged them to remember that no other god could compare to Him. God alone existed and had the ability to save His people. Only God could bear up Israel through difficult times and bring His people to a restored faith and wonderful future. Our worship of God is the only worship that bears up!
EXAMPLE: In times of hardship, people can feel abandoned. Friends and family may desert us. Perhaps they believe the victim deserves the difficulty as punishment for sin or perhaps they do not know what to say or do to help. Sometimes the future can seem bleak. In such times, only God can bear us up. From the beginning of our lives, God has been present; and He will continue to offer His presence, strength, and guidance. We can depend on Him if we trust Him with our lives instead of the things we foolishly cling to. Worship of Him who bore us is the worship that bears up!
Worshiping false gods blinds us to the true identity of the only living God.
Worshiping only God brings us the blessings of forgiveness and service.
Worshiping false gods will not help but will only burden us.
Only God can carry us through life’s devastating experiences.
This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.
Am I a rebel? – Isaiah 1:2-5, 11-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 5, 2014 AM
I have always wondered why the opposite sex has found those who are rebellious fascinating. Perhaps it has to do with the what I call the “Eve Gene.” There are those who are attracted to rebellion, thinking that in it they will find some kind of freedom. As a teenager, I found it downright humorous when many of my contemporaries wanted to be different yet often followed the same fads, dressed the same, and did many of the same things everyone else did! Kind of like tattoos and body piercings are today! Those who desired to be different soon were the same as everyone else! We may desire to think of ourselves as rebels without a cause when in fact we are just being disobedient.
God’s people are never to desire to be part of the crowd. In fact, we find that we are to be in the world but not of the world! When a child of the King desires to appear or appease themselves at the sake of their life in Christ, they are not just being a rebel; they are in full-blown rebellion against the Lord! The beginning of Isaiah relates God’s lawsuit against His people for breaking their covenantal contract with Him. God, through Isaiah, brought an indictment against Israel for her breach of contract, but also offered His forgiveness if they were willing to stop their rebellion, repent of their sin, and return to Him. As we study this section of Scripture, we should ask, “Am I a rebel?”
My mom often told me, “Young man, you didn’t hear a single word I said to you!” In helping to raise an active 4-year-old grandson, I now understand exactly what she meant. Isaiah relates that…
I. We rebel against God when we refuse to listen! (Vv. 2-5)
1. As in a courtroom, God brings His case against those in rebellion by asking all of creation, both the heavens and the earth, to hear and bear witness to the charges He is bringing against them! He had “reared” them like His “children and brought them up, but they (had) rebelled against” Him! God had taken them from the land of the Chaldeans, watched over them in Egypt, brought them out of their slavery, continually rescued them and yet they blatantly refused to follow Him as He asked them to! God always views those He rescues and nurtures as His children. Yet, unlike brute animals like the ox or donkey, who know their master and feeding trough, God’s rebellious children deliberately do not know and do not understand! It is like a child who, when caught red-handed doing wrong, arrogantly says, “It’s not my fault!” Israel, like anyone who says they follow God but deliberately rebel against Him, is a “sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers,” and “children given to corruption!” Therefore, be careful thinking we live a nation under God when we allow the murder of the unborn innocent, promote pornography, and cater to the corruption of what the meaning of family and marriage truly are! We are anything but one nation under God! But again, look at who had ignored the Lord in their disobedience. He was not speaking to the ungodly world at large, but to His own children! They were the ones who had “forsaken the LORD; they were the ones who had “spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on Him!” Like a willful child who refuses to listen to a parent who has lovingly sacrificed everything for them, God’s people arrogantly turned away from Him! Curiously, Isaiah asks two interesting questions, “Why should you be beaten anymore? Why do you persist in rebellion?” Just like someone who persists in going back into a destructive relationship, or as Proverbs reminds us, “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” (Proverbs 26:11 NIV) God’s rebellious folks had “wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil” (v.6)! Why would they want to be beaten some more? Why would they persist in going back to sin? Yet they did! Like criminals who continually go back to a life of crime, or children who delight in going against their parents, we rebel against God when we refuse to listen!
EXAMPLE: My mother would vehemently tell us, “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times!” Now did she really tell us that many times or was it the fact that in her frustration to get her message across Mom felt she had told us a “thousand times” — probably the latter. Now I understand why my father would often ask us to repeat what we had just been told. This is where God was in His exasperation with His children. Kind of as God does with us, even now when we do not listen to His voice as we should. Maybe we have forgotten that God can love us and still be exasperated with our actions. That was where He was with the nation of Israel. Are you in rebellion against the Lord? We rebel against God when we refuse to listen!
Perhaps we gain a greater understanding of Jesus’ words when He related, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” (Matthew 23:37 NIV) However, it was not that His children had poor hearing; they thought they were okay in their relationship with God! After all, they did all the right things. We discover that…
II. We rebel against God when we sacrifice the wrong things! (Vv. 11-14)
1. Do not think that evangelicals, including Baptists, do not have religious rituals we protect. In fact, we often forsake old ones for new ones! The Israelites were great at keeping their rituals. Yet, God asks, “The multitude of your sacrifices– what are they to me?” They thought that by the sheer number of animals being slaughtered could make up for their ungodliness! It is like those who erroneously think that if their worship is grander, bigger, or louder it is more pleasing to God! Neither bigger buildings nor louder bands can bring one closer to the grace of God! It does not make up for spiritual shallowness. God tells them, “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.” He was sick to death of their spiritual hypocrisy! Samuel asked Saul “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22 NIV) In fact, God is not impressed with numbers either. This is why He tells them, “When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts?” Crowds thundered into the temple to offer hundreds of thousands of sacrifices, but God was not impressed! To Him, they were like a mindless mob going through the motions. He angrily tells them, “Stop bringing meaningless offerings!” I wonder if what transpires in some churches today is detestable to God. He tells them, “Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations — I cannot bear your evil assemblies. Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.” Their worship was detestable, evil, unbearable, and weary and hated by Him! They were literally despised and burdensome because they were carried out hypocritically, with sinful hearts! Wow! They needed to sacrifice themselves! Do not think dear child of Jesus that you are immune, because this is exactly why Paul wrote, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1 NIV) We rebel against God when we sacrifice the wrong things!
EXAMPLE: We live in a self-centered society whereby we think our prayers, our worship, and our churches are all about us. We leave a church when we no longer get anything out of it. We judge fellow believers or leaders by what they do or not do for us! And we attend and give when it is convenient to our lifestyle! Can you find personal sacrifice in any of this? Prayers, worship, and our church membership is to be God-centered and sacrificial! Paul wrote, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV) Seriously, do you think God is pleased with our worship of Him when He sees no change in our life? We can pray for others to be changed, for our church to be changed, or for more change in the offering plate but until we are willing to be changed ourselves, God will never be interested in our worship! Revival begins with God’s people! We rebel against God when we sacrifice the wrong things!
I have heard folks use prayer as an excuse as to why they treat others with contempt. “Pastor, I have really committed this to prayer…” and then the next words out of their mouths prove that their prayers were simply meaningless words uttered to justify their actions. What they fail to hear is that change begins at home. In fact, throughout Scripture we learn that…
III. We rebel against God when we refuse to repent! (Vv. 15-20)
1. Jesus told the crowds to be careful not to follow in the false footsteps of the Pharisees, “They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers.” He related that, “Such men will be punished most severely.” (Mark 12:40 NIV) God told Isaiah to relate to the Israelites, “When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen.” Can you imagine God hiding His eyes and not listening to your prayers? Now I know God does not truly have eyes and ears, because He is Spirit, however, He does see us and does hear every word we speak (Matthew 12:36)! God simply would refuse to hear their many words! Like the adults in the Charlie Brown cartoons, God would only hear, “Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah!” Why would this occur? Their hands were full of the blood of their own people whom they were willing to sacrifice instead of themselves! The answer to their spiritual predicament was to “wash and make yourselves clean”! They were to seek God’s forgiveness and take their “evil deeds out of (God’s) sight!” The only way this was possible was if they were willing to “Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” In other words, they were to repent of their sins and actually take care of God’s people! Now isn’t it interesting that we are encouraged to pray and do our deeds secretly (Matthew 6:1-8). Hebrews tells us, “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:12-13 NIV) God’s people are to encourage one another! God then gently says, “Come now, let us reason together. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” There’s the key, repentance! In fact, “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” How could Isaiah, the Israelites, or believers today be sure this was true? “For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” We rebel against God when we refuse to repent!
EXAMPLE: When we were caught, doing something wrong, my Mother would tell us, “I’ll make you sorry that you were ever born,” while my Dad would say, “Being sorry isn’t good enough.” God teaches us that simply being sorry is not good enough either, He reminds us that “…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.” (2 Chronicles 7:14-15 NIV) David, when he was caught in his sin he knew God demanded more than being sorry, he related, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalms 51:16-17 NIV) Peter declared, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord!” (Acts 3:19 NIV) We rebel against God when we refuse to repent!
We rebel against God when we refuse to listen! We rebel against God when we sacrifice the wrong things! We rebel against God when we refuse to repent!
This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.
Rebellion: A path to ruin! – Micah 1:1-9; 2:1-4a
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 16, 2013 AM
Susan was a beautiful, intelligent young woman with a bright future ahead of her. She started spending time with an on-the-edge group from work. Her father tried to warn her of her choices, but she refused to listen, thinking she knew what was best for her life. At a party she should never have attended, Susan made a tragic decision. A young man she wanted to impress gave her a taste of a dangerous drug known as Meth. Her immediate addiction took a devastating toll on every facet of her life. One year later the once beautiful girl was not heading up the corporate ladder but off to prison. Her teeth were rotting, her complexion was ruined, her hair was thin, and she was near starvation. She would have given anything to go back and make different decisions for her life.
Few adults like to be told what to do. Many prefer to reject authority, especially any that limits their freedom. They want to choose what to do and when they will do it. Many among us go even further. They delight in rebelling against God and His law. Each new generation must learn an important lesson the hard way: We cannot find fulfillment by rejecting God’s authority over our lives. God gives us His laws to protect and guide us. He wants us to have an abundant life filled with the joy of knowing Him and serving others. When we rebel against those laws, we suffer the consequences He wants to shield us from in our lives. When we decide to do our own thing, it is rebellion: a path to ruin! Let’s discover how rebellion is a path to ruin…
We learned that if our father asked us to do something, he expected us to respond right away. To ignore his request or to refuse was an act of disobedience. There would be consequences for doing so. The nations of Israel and Judah forgot the Lord and refused to submit to His will. They rejected His laws and pursued sinful worldly pleasures. Like many today, they thought they could rebel against the Lord without paying a price. God sent Micah to warn people that their rebellion would have inevitable consequences and to call them to repent before it was too late. We read about…
I. God’s response to rebellion! (Vv. 1:1-5)
1. The name Micah means, “Who is like Yahweh?” He was a contemporary of Isaiah and prophesied around 735-700 B.C. not much is known about this prophet’s personal life. His hometown of Moresheth-gath (1:14), was 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem. Micah’s prophecy is the word of the Lord. He was not speaking his thoughts but revealing God’s message. Samaria and Jerusalem were the respective capitals of Israel and Judah in Micah’s day. The division of territories and dual thrones occurred following the death of Solomon. Micah spoke about Israel; but like Isaiah, he primarily focused on the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The Bible offers timeless messages for every generation. God is the same and sinful human beings are the same. Advancement has been made in information and technology but no improvement in basic human nature. People still reject the authority of a holy God and rebel against His will and laws. Micah painted a scene depicting the Lord God as a Judge with all the peoples of the earth as jury. The case was being made against Israel and Judah for their failure to obey the Lord. He would act as a witness against the rebellious kingdoms. The Lord declared He would leave His place (the holy of holies or heaven) and come down to trample the heights of the earth. God’s arrival would mean judgment and destruction for the disobedient. The coming of the Lord in anger warned sinners to repent. Sending Micah to warn the people of impending judgment was an act of mercy, giving sinners one more opportunity to repent before it was too late. Mountains and valleys represent the highest and lowest points on earth. Taken together they represent everything in the land. The Lord, however, can melt the mountains and split the valleys. These verbal images display the foolishness of opposing the Lord. “All this is because of Jacob’s transgression, because of the sins of the house of Israel.” It is God’s response to rebellion!
EXAMPLE: The listeners would ask, “What is Jacob’s transgression?” Micah responded, “Is it not Samaria? What is Judah’s high place? Is it not Jerusalem?” The high place was an elevated area where the people worshiped the Lord (2 Chronicles 33:17). In times of apostasy, however, these became sites of idolatry and the worship of false gods and goddesses (1 Kings 11:7). Jerusalem should have been a place where the Lord was worshiped, but had become another high place where idols were served. The leaders of both Samaria and Judah had set ungodly examples of idolatry and disobedience to the law. Do you think this could be true of America today? What are some of the high places our leaders have established? What do some believers worship today? We can be sure that the same God who punished sinful nations in the past will punish sinful nations in the present and future. Any nation that refuses to honor the Lord and His laws will eventually suffer the consequences just as Israel and Judah did. However, it is also true of disobedient believers as well! Those who rebel against the Lord will experience God’s discipline. It can be severe, depending on the depth of the rebellion; but it is always a redemptive act of a loving Father.
The message of Micah for Israel and Judah in the eighth century B.C. is relevant for those of us living in America in the 21st century. The Lord wants us to learn from the mistakes of the past so we will not repeat them and suffer similar consequences. Rebellion is a path to ruin for nations and individuals. Let’s see what Micah tells us about the…
II. Results of rebellion against God! (Vv. 1:6-9)
1. Micah predicted the destruction of Samaria, capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Israel never had a godly king and never experienced a spiritual revival. Israel fell in 722 B.C. when Assyria invaded and left Samaria in a heap of ruins (2 Kings 17:1-5). Micah predicted, “Therefore I will make Samaria a heap of rubble, a place for planting vineyards. I will pour her stones into the valley and lay bare her foundations.” Idolatry was the chief sin of Israel. God would cause Assyria to do what Israel should have done—smash her carved images and destroy all of her idols. The reference to prostitute has a double meaning. It probably refers to the cultic prostitutes who served at the pagan shrines. Symbolically Israel was a prostitute when its people abandoned God (their true Husband) and went after other gods. Therefore, “All her idols will be broken to pieces; all her temple gifts will be burned with fire; I will destroy all her images. Since she gathered her gifts from the wages of prostitutes, as the wages of prostitutes they will again be used.” However, the wages of their prostitution would be used by the invading Assyrians, because the money taken by Assyria in its victory would be used to deport and enslave the Israelites! Micah’s response was to “weep and wail” and to “go about barefoot and naked.” He would “howl like a jackal and moan like an owl” in his grief! Her “wound is incurable” refers to the certain judgment of God on Israel. The sin and resulting judgment was certain because Israel would not repent. Israel’s sinful influence affected Judah as well. Judah’s idolatry would bring the nation to the brink of destruction, also by Assyria. The Assyrian armies would march to the gate of Jerusalem and only the repentance and the godly leadership of Hezekiah saved Judah from Assyria (2 Kings 18–19)! It was the result of rebellion against God!
EXAMPLE: The worship of idols in some parts of the world today includes the use of images. However, idolatry in most developed countries like ours is more subtle. We may not carve images to our gods, but whatever is supremely important to a person is an idol. My father used to warn, “Be careful what you wish for, it just might come true!” Relationships, money, fame, education, power, and pleasure continue to be wished for or worshiped by many. These things are not evil or bad in of themselves; however, Christians living in the world are sometimes influenced more by these things rather than their faith in Christ. We must realize God still disciplines His people and the discipline can be severe. We must recognize the power of bad company and maintain obedience with a proper fear or respect for the holiness of God. Otherwise, we too can face the results of our rebellion against God!
The Lord identified idolatry as the primary sin of the nation. The many idols demonstrated a rejection of God’s commandments, and He promised they would be destroyed. In Micah 1:8–2:13, the prophet took on the role of a mourner in anticipation of devastating judgment on the people of Israel and Judah. He called on the sinful inhabitants of various cities to join him in mourning for their sins. Otherwise, they would…
III. Suffer the ruin of rebellion! (Vv. 2:1-4a)
1. Have you ever suffered from another’s evil schemes or plans? Micah described people with hearts and minds focused on evil plans. These people were deliberate in their desire to do harm to others. Micah laments, “Woe to those who plan iniquity, to those who plot evil on their beds! At morning’s light they carry it out because it is in their power to do it.” Wow! These folks plotted evil before they slept, and then the first thing they did in the morning was carry it out! These wicked plotters used surprise to overpower their victims. Micah focused on the mind, where all sin originates. The mind conceives and gives birth to sin! James, Jesus’ brother wrote that, “but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death!” (James 1:14-15 NIV) Micah identified greed as the source of many sinful acts in his day. Hasn’t changed much has it? The wicked coveted the fields, houses, and inheritance of others. Some folks loaned others money and then demanded payment when they knew the borrower would have to default. The account of King Ahab lying about Naboth to steal his vineyard (1 Kings 21) is an example of how widespread these abuses became. Micah related, “Therefore, the LORD says: ‘I am planning disaster against this people, from which you cannot save yourselves. You will no longer walk proudly, for it will be a time of calamity.’” God’s judgment would be inescapable and would involve bondage. The neck was the place where yokes were placed, implying restraint. God tells Micah to prophesy that, “In that day men will ridicule you; they will taunt you with this mournful song: ‘We are utterly ruined; my people’s possession is divided up. He takes it from me! He assigns our fields to traitors.’” Pride is the root of arrogant disregard for the rights of others and of rebellious rejection of God’s authority. Those who we once thought of as our friends will deride us in our suffering! God promised an evil time when His people would no longer walk so proudly. Perhaps, America is suffering or will suffer from believer’s being so arrogant and prideful? We can suffer from the ruin of our rebellion!
EXAMPLE: One of the worst punishments I ever received from my father was when he caught me planning to get even with my brother Ed. He told me while it was not right what Ed did, my scheming to get even was worse because I was plotting evil against my own brother. Crime is the work of professional criminals and amateurs who plot evil against innocent victims. Each day robberies, rapes, murders, and destructive acts are testimonies to the plans of the wicked. Some criminals are violent while others use technology to steal identities and defraud businesses and individuals. Terrorists motivated by hatred are constantly looking for ways to destroy their enemies. Greed continues to motivate many today. Unscrupulous schemers spread their lies hoping to deceive and cheat naïve victims. Some major corporations defraud investors with deceptive accounting. It is worse when believers plot against each other or family members steal form one another. The sins of Micah’s day continue to appeal to the covetous hearts of sinful human beings today. However, make no mistake; we will suffer from the ruin of our rebellion!
Those who fail to heed the warnings of God’s Word discover that opposing Him always leads to physical, emotional, and spiritual ruin. We can proudly oppose the Lord and be humbled or we can submit humbly to Him. We looked at God’s response to rebellion; the results of rebellion against God; and how we can suffer the ruin of rebellion.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2013 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.